Title: The Danish Girl
Country: UK, USA, Belgium, Denmark, Germany
Language: English, French, German
Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance
Director: Tom Hooper
Screenwriter: Lucinda Coxon
based on the novel of David Ebershoff
Music: Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography: Danny Cohen
Tom Hopper’s follow-up of THE KING’S SPEECH (2010) and LES MISERABLES (2012) is a “true” story about Einar Wegner, aka. Lili Elbe (Redmayne), a Danish landscape painter in 1920s, who was among the first recipients of sex change surgery in the human history, and the film is all about the telling love story between him and his supporting wife Gerda (Vikander), a portrait artist, and how they mange to shoulder on during Einar/Lili’s unconventional pursuit to become a real woman.
If you do some background checking, you will find the film is not nearly based on the real story of Einar and Gerda, indeed, most of the depiction is fictionalised in its source novel written by David Ebershoff. So it is rather shameful the movie has been painstakingly marketed with the “based on a true story” tag just because it looks more like an Oscar bait.
Also, tackling the thorny issue of transgender cognition, the film is told entirely through the point-of-view from a male perspective to define a woman (fancy dresses, makeups, a vagina, that is all ) and a tolerant and support wife, an imaginary elaboration from a cisgender mindset, which can be explored as a particular angle, but when the whole narrative pivots around it, the film will definitely not appear as politically correct.
Against all these hindrances, THE DANISH GIRL is a breathtakingly gorgeous achievement on all its technical levels, Desplat’s magnificent score ushers audience into the splendour of its production design, costume, landscape, architecture and art pieces, on the eye level, the film is impeccably enticing. Then the performances of two leads, the “it” star in Hollywood now, Vikander won as Oscar for her “supporting” role, if one takes the word literally, she is indeed the most supporting character you can expect, except one brief moment of lapse when she seeks comfort from the hunky art dealer Hans Axgil (Schoenaerts). Her win really becomes a nuisance if we think of the exact same position of Felicity Jones in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (2014), her Jane Hawking is a “leading” role in her own life, instead of being a “supporting” wife for Stephen Hawking (Redmayne again), otherwise she could have given Patricia Arquette a good run for her money.
Although Redmayne’s physiognomy is too angular to call it as an earthly beauty and there are certain cringeworthy moments when he relentlessly tries to imitate the feminine mannerism in front of the mirror, it is self-consciously awkward and betrays Redmayne’s self-effacing nature, but this is what the best one can get from allowing a male actor to play a transgender pioneer, something is congenitally missing at the first place
Anyway, THE DANISH GIRL effectuates its emotional punch when reaching its lugubrious finish line, albeit its inadequately adapted screenplay. Frankly speaking it is a winsome movie, but it is not a brave one, a lost opportunity to bring about something extraordinary (casting a real trans-actor in the leading role for instance) out of an inspiring and valuable true story.